I finally watched “Waiting for “Superman” a couple of nights ago. If you haven’t seen the movie I would recommend you watch it before reading the rest of this post. It is a must see if you care at all about education.
The movie really spoke to me as a long time supporter of School Choice and did a great job explaining exactly what is wrong with public education. I especially loved how the movie eviscerated the teacher’s unions. Over and over the movie showed video of self-serving teachers union officials and did a voice-over with the statement: “We know who represents the teachers. Who represents the students?”. It was great.
Especially moving (in an incredibly sad way) was seeing the faces of kids and parents who pin their hopes and dreams on the slim chance of getting into a Charter School – and not getting accepted. Tears were definitely streaming down my face.
The movie was flawed in only one way. It does a great job outlining the problems but does little to propose solutions. Granted, part of the process of getting to a solution is understanding the problem. The purpose of this post is to propose a solution.
The movie is about Charter Schools. More specifically, the movie shows how Charter Schools can do amazing things when not constrained by bureaucracy. Charter schools can hire/fire their own teachers, set their own curriculum, and set their own rules. But…. they are still dependent on school boards and politicians for their money, and in most states they must still “teach to the test“.
I submit that Charter Schools are a giant step in the right direction, but are really only a half step toward the real solution. The full and proper step would be to get the government (and its bloated bureaucracy) out of the way and implement what I call Publicly Funded School Choice. By applying free market principals to primary and secondary education (like we do to almost every other industry in America) I believe we would quickly propel our lagging system to the very forefront of global education innovation. More importantly, every student would get a better education than they currently get today.
American Universities are widely considered to be the best in the world Why? Because our University system is almost a free market. Universities have far more ability to hire/fire teachers and students, set their own curriculum and rules, and set prices that allow them to provide quality products at competitive prices. There is something for everyone in our university system because these schools specialize. The market decides what schools start, succeed, and fail – not politicians and teachers unions.
I don’t get it. Why don’t we apply these same free market principals to primary/secondary education?
The solution for making our schools great is to give every kid a voucher and let the market do its magic. True, not every kid is going to get into Harvard. But the good news is that a system of school choice can’t be worse than the system that exists today. Publicly Funded School Choice will will result in public schools eventually being replaced by universal private education. Public schools, with their political shackles, just won’t be able to compete with agile private businesses. Imagine a world were every kid goes to private school – not just the rich or the lucky. I believe we will be truly and utterly amazed at what innovation and greatness we will see in our schools if a free market is allowed to flourish.